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2012 Draft Prep: On the defensive

Senior Fantasy Writer
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For some people, starting eight, nine or 10 players just isn't enough. Sometimes you need to start at least 15. For those people, defensive players are part of the league game plan and part of the enjoyment of Fantasy Football.

When you are asked to start individual defensive players (IDPs), the game becomes a bit more challenging. You must focus on both sides of the line of scrimmage and all players around the league, not just the customary quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. Everything from draft strategies to waiver claims become complicated.

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Using IDPs isn't for everybody but it's becoming increasingly popular. Some leagues have added one or two defenders to their starting lineup requirements as a way to "test" whether or not they should be bigger parts of rosters. Other leagues have already decided that IDPs is more fun and ask owners to use eleven of them -- that's on top of a deep starting lineup.

Picking good IDPs is lot like picking good offensive players: Get guys who are around the ball. Ball-hawking defensive backs and playmakers in the front seven are always desirable Fantasy options because they're racking up stats by making tackles, registering sacks, forcing fumbles, deflecting or intercepting passes and scoring touchdowns. The only exception, and it's a weird one, are stud cornerbacks who don't get thrown at as much.

Like yardage for typical Fantasy players, tackles are the primary stat to use to judge IDPs. Most leagues that use defenders rely on both solo and assisted tackles to give points, with the other defensive stats boosting totals. You might see all tackles count for one point; passes defensed, forced fumbles and recoveries count for two; sacks and interceptions count for three; and touchdowns count for six. Obviously, because a good defender will make anywhere from 90 to 150 total tackles in a season versus a handful of other stats, tackles are king.

We're going to provide you a rank list for IDPs (good through the start of training camp), but a sharp Fantasy owner should always keep an eye on the waiver wire for rising talent. That's the key to success with defenders. Just like offensive players, defenders will come out of nowhere to post big stats and be helpful options to your team. Win the battle of uncovering waiver-wire gems, and you'll be on your way to IDP-league success.

IDP rankings
  Defensive linemen Linebackers Defensive backs
1 Jared Allen Patrick Willis Roman Harper
2 Jason Pierre-Paul James Laurinaitis Tyvon Branch
3 Kamerion Wimbley Curtis Lofton Yeremiah Bell
4 Julius Peppers D'Qwell Jackson Morgan Burnett
5 Trent Cole Derrick Johnson Eric Weddle
6 Jason Babin London Fletcher Charles Woodson
7 Cameron Wake DeMarcus Ware Mark Barron
8 Justin Smith Karlos Dansby Jairus Byrd
9 Adrian Clayborn Chad Greenway Antoine Bethea
10 Calais Campbell Sean Weatherspoon Charles Tillman
11 Charles Johnson Pat Angerer Kam Chancellor
12 Justin Tuck Stephen Tulloch Antrel Rolle
13 Jeremy Mincey Brian Cushing Bernard Pollard
14 Jabaal Sheard Sean Lee Eric Berry
15 Haloti Ngata James Harrison Quintin Mikell
16 Mario Williams Desmond Bishop Dawan Landry
17 Chris Clemons NaVorro Bowman George Wilson
18 Cliff Avril James Anderson Earl Thomas
19 Ahtyba Rubin Daryl Washington Devin McCourty
20 Elvis Dumervil Lance Briggs Dashon Goldson
21 Kyle Williams Lawrence Timmons DeAngelo Hall
22 Matt Shaughnessy DeMeco Ryans Malcolm Jenkins
23 Shea McClellin Von Miller Brandon Flowers
24 Andre Branch Brian Urlacher Tramon Williams
25 Chris Long Ray Lewis Reggie Nelson
26 Israel Idonije Donald Butler Steve Gregory
27 Osi Umenyiora David Harris Joe Haden
28 John Abraham Tamba Hali Brandon Carr
29 Kyle Vanden Bosch Akeem Dent Gerald Sensabaugh
30 J.J. Watt Daryl Smith Kenny Phillips
31 Ndamukong Suh Mason Foster Richard Marshall
32 Darnell Dockett Colin McCarthy Morris Claiborne
33 Brian Robison Paul Posluszny Jason McCourty
34 Geno Atkins Luke Kuechly Darian Stewart
35 James Hall Perry Riley T.J. Ward
36 Mark Anderson David Hawthorne Harrison Smith
37 Derrick Morgan Clay Matthews Ryan Clark
38 Trevor Scott Bobby Wagner Troy Polamalu
39 Richard Seymour Jon Beason Michael Griffin
40 Marcell Dareus LaMarr Woodley Patrick Peterson

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
IK Enemkpali dealing with plantar fascia injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:32 pm ET) Jets linebacker IK Enemkpali is suffering from an injury to the plantar fascia in one of his feet, NJ.com reports.

"Rest is a big part of it," Enemkpali said. "Right now, I'm just leaving it in the hands of the training room staff to see when I can get back on the field."

Enemkpali added that the injury has bothered him off and on throughout his career. He's out indefinitely.


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The Falcons ranked 21st against the pass last season, allowing 243.6 yards per game, and gave up the eighth-most Fantasy points to wide receivers. Stills didn't play a major role in the Saints' two games against them last year but made his presence known in the first, hauling in a 67-yard pass.

With Lance Moore and Darren Sproles out of the picture, Stills figures to get more targets going forward, but if his quad continues to plague him, rookie Brandin Cook could cut into those targets. He's already considered the preferred Fantasy option of the two based on his preseason performance.

With his exact role in question entering the new season, you'll probably want to sit Stills in Fantasy even if he's healthy enough to play.


Brandon Marshall likely to continue TD streak in Week 1
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Marshall is less of a big play threat than fellow starter Alshon Jeffery, but he does plenty of damage in his own right. Half of his 12 touchdowns last season were from within six yards of the end zone. Nine of his touchdowns came on passes from starter Jay Cutler. If the Bears can get to the red zone repeatedly Sunday -- and they can -- Cutler should hook up with Marshall for at least one score.

Marshall had double-digit targets 11 times last season, failing to reach eight targets only once all season. The space should be there over the middle against a depleted Buffalo linebacker corps and a secondary without Jairus Byrd. Marshall snagged half of his 100 receptions in the middle of the field within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage, per Pro Football Focus. Look for him to exploit that same part of the field Sunday en route to a big Fantasy day.


Brandin Cooks has ideal matchup to begin career
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(7:11 pm ET) Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who climbed the Fantasy rankings with a strong preseason performance in which he caught nine passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, couldn't ask for a better matchup to begin his career than a visit to Atlanta in Week 1. The Falcons ranked 21st against the pass last season, allowing 243.6 yards per game.

But that doesn't quite capture the full extent of their struggles. They allowed the second-highest passer rating and the fourth-most passing touchdowns. They also surrendered the eight-most Fantasy points to wide receivers.

Cooks is listed behind both Marques Colston and Kenny Stills on the depth chart, but the Saints have said they'll use him in a variety of roles, looking to capitalize on his big-play potential both underneath (filling the Darren Sproles void) and down the field.

Banking on them doing it right out of the gate is risky, which is why neither Jamey Eisenberg nor Dave Richard ranks Cook among the top 30 wide receivers this week, but if you're in the gambling sort of mood, the matchup favors him.


Report: Wes Welker suspended four games for amphetamines
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:58 pm ET) Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker has been suspended four games by the league for use of amphentamines, ESPN reports.

Welker is currently recovering from a concussion and appeared to be on track to play in Week 1. However, an appeal filed by Welker has been denied by the league, leaving him ineligible for Denver's first four games. Welker will be eligible to return Week 6 against the Jets.


Healthier Marques Colston could start big
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(6:58 pm ET) Saints wide receiver Marques Colston, who has spoken repeatedly this preseason about how much better he feels after battling a foot injury the last couple years, has the perfect opportunity to show it Week 1 at Atlanta.

Not only did the Falcons rank 21st against the pass last year, allowing 243.6 yards per game, but they gave up the eighth-most Fantasy points to a wide receiver. Though they've made some changes to their defense since then, most notably switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme, their starting cornerback tandem of Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford remains unchanged.

Colston caught five passes for 68 yards and a touchdown in his first game against the Falcons last year. He wasn't as productive in the second, catching four passes for 40 yards, and that'll happen to him from time to time on an offense that likes to spread the ball around. But the matchup clearly works in his favor this week, which is why CBSSports.com Fantasy Football analyst Jamey Eisenberg ranks him 20th at wide receiver for the week.


Jay Cutler a prime candidate for multiple TDs in Week 1
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(6:55 pm ET) Bears quarterback Jay Cutler took to the team's new offensive system swimmingly in 2013, riding a strong supporting cast that included running back Matt Forte and wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall to an outstanding first six weeks. In his first six games, Cutler completed nearly 66 percent of his passes while averaging about 272 yards, two touchdowns and one interception per game.

An injury cut Cutler's seventh game short, and he found it difficult to get back to 100 percent at any point over the remainder of the season before finally giving way to Josh McCown. However, back to full strength for the start of 2014, Cutler is a prime candidate to match his first-six-game averages from last season in Week 1 against the Bills.

The Bills still maintain an excellent stable of pass rushers, but the back seven has lost players to injury and free agency, and the team will try to restock from within. Linebackers Kiko Alonso (out for year) and Nigel Bradham (suspended for Week 1) won't play Sunday, and safety projects to be an area of concern after Jairus Byrd left in free agency. Cutler should find plenty of room in the middle of the field all day. Expect plenty of first downs as the Bears QB piles up 300-plus yards and multiple TDs in Week 1.


Jimmy Graham should shine right away
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(6:40 pm ET) The Saints travel to Atlanta in Week 1 to take on a Falcons team they know well.

How well? Tight end Jimmy Graham, now four years into his NFL career, has already scored seven touchdowns against them. In only one of the seven games since he became the Saints' primary tight end has he got without one, and it wasn't last year. No, he scored a touchdown in each of the Saints' two games against the Falcons, making four grabs for 45 yards in the first and five for 100 in the second.

Judging by the way the Falcons defended the pass last year, you'd wonder why he didn't score more. They allowed 31 touchdowns through he air, fourth-most in the league, and gave up the ninth-most Fantasy points to tight ends. They did switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme this offseason, but that won't have much say in Graham's production.

Chances are if you drafted him in Fantasy, you'll be starting him every week anyway, but this week is no time to get cute.


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Given the way the Falcons defended the pass last year, those numbers could have been even better. Atlanta ranked 21st against the pass, allowing 243.6 yards per game, and gave up the second-highest quarterback rating of 102.4. They surrendered the fourth-most Fantasy points to quarterbacks.

While they made some changes to their defense this offseason, switching to a 3-4 scheme and adding Dwight Lowery at free safety, neither will be enough to slow down Brees. He's a must-start every week in Fantasy, but particularly with a matchup like this one.


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